By Gage Andis
Business school is a microcosm, an advanced-degree diaspora where we’re expected to network immediately and make lifetime connections and friends. At least it starts that way, then you quickly realize how deep those links can go, how optimistic, anxious, excited and overwhelmed everyone around you is, and how optimistic we all look at the future. In this way, the military is not unlike Stern.
I enlisted in the Air Force after a less-than-desirable semester at the local community college in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I tested and passed what’s called the “DLAB,” an exam that measures linguistic aptitude using a fictional language, so my job designation was as a Chinese linguist. I found out my language in Week 5 of basic training. After basic, I moved to Monterey, California, where I learned Chinese from six of the greatest people I have ever met. I made incredible lifetime friends, two of which asked me to officiate their wedding. Struggling through tests, trying to achieve more, and developing relationships with the people around you is once again reminiscent of this place.
After leaving California, I spent three months in Texas and finally moved to Oahu in November 2014, where I stayed for three and a half years. I worked primarily for the NSA as a cryptologic language analyst, where I started working in the classic “headset-wearing Hollywood-esque intelligence” role, but quickly veered away from that to focus more on tactical intelligence production with the Navy, which was also my first leadership position. I owe my success from that experience to Master Sergeant Lawrence Reynolds, who was instrumental in my personal development and throughout the rest of my career. After my time in that role, I wanted something new, so I transferred to the subsurface shop of the NSA Naval division as that shop’s mission manager and stayed there until the end of 2018. I met one of my best buddies, Technical Sergeant Nicholas Joseph while working there and, though I left the military and he stayed in, we both ended up in Maryland.
After I left the Air Force, I went back home to Indiana where I thought I was going to settle down for a few years and enroll at Indiana University. I did the latter but skipped the former since I received a job offer at Fort Meade in Maryland and, after a personally tumultuous summer, I decided to take it. Nick offered me a place to stay with no strings attached until I found my own place to rent.
After that job, I took a position working in counterintelligence for the Army, which is the reason why so many people at Stern have called me a spy. To speak on that, some of the work we did included outreach to the Army Criminal Investigation Division, monitoring of international events, collective work shared by multiple three letter agencies, technological advancement research products, and coordinated Fortune 100 intelligence gathering. Since I hadn’t worked counterintelligence before, I reached out to my mentor, GS-15 Christel Lopez-Berryman, for so much help it’s a wonder I didn’t drive her crazy. She taught me the job, and my previous leadership experience helped transform our operations. I gained a ton of skills working there, mostly due to Christel’s impeccable leadership.
Finally, I decided I wanted to exit the industry altogether and pursue something more, settling on consulting for its similarities to military intelligence. I was accepted at Stern, paving my way to New York City. I’ve been here close to four months and I can already tell there are certain friends that will inevitably end up similar to the people I mentioned above. I name-dropped these three people because they have been the constant in my life, my corner, and my endeavors. Without them I would have never gotten into Stern, and I know they will impact my future success. My life experiences have focused on people, and the single-greatest reason I pursued an MBA was to build on that. I wanted to meet people different from me and learn beyond my limited scope of the world. A few months in, I can safely say I completely underestimated just how much learning that would entail. It’s been amazing, and I don’t see that changing.